Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd pile pressure on Chelsea
Premier League preview: trouble ahead for Fulham and Cardiff as Chelsea face Man Utd test
THINGS are tight at the top of the Premier League and there can be no slip-ups for the main title chasers this weekend. Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea are all at home and simply have to win to keep up the pressure on their rivals.
Leaders Arsenal and second-placed Man City have, on paper, relatively easy assignments against relegation candidates, but Chelsea face old adversaries Manchester United on Sunday in the biggest game of the weekend.
At the bottom, with six points separating tenth from 20th there is all to play for and none of the clubs in the lower reaches of the table can relax.
Here's the best of the weekend's action:
Chelsea v Man Utd
The big match on Sunday is a one of the Premier League's classic encounters, and even with nine points between the two teams it should be a tense affair. By the time this kicks off Chelsea will know how title rivals Arsenal and Man City got on, but it’s safe to assume that at least one of them will have won and that the Blues will need all three points to stay in touch. However, Chelsea have never lost at home in the league under Jose Mourinho and they look unlikely to start now. The home side will be favourites against a Man United team that has spluttered from crisis to crisis this season. United boss David Moyes is also likely to be without several key players, including Rio Ferdinand, Robin van Persie and possibly Wayne Rooney. Mourinho has no such injury worries and with the Blue Machine purring nicely at the moment with Eden Hazard in fine form in the middle, the home side should come away with a win.
Arsenal v Fulham
The Gunners faithful will expect their team to brush aside a miserable Fulham side currently languishing down in 16th place, one point above the relegation zone. The Cottagers have had a dreadful season, losing ten of their last 13 league matches. They have also lost the art of earning a point, with only one draw all season. The return of gigantic centre back Brede Hangeland will add steel to the rearguard, but will it be enough to thwart the Gunners? With only Oliver Giroud up front, Hangeland could make a difference in that department, but Arsenal have form players all over the pitch and Arsene Wenger's array of attacking midfielders will surely have too much guile for Fulham.
Man City v Cardiff
With 99 goals in the bag so far this season Man City look certain to reach three figures on Saturday. City's home form is nothing short of terrifying. Ten wins out of ten in the league, with 38 goals scored and only six conceded. Sergio Aguero will also return from injury against Cardiff and the Citizens will have revenge on their minds after the embarrassing defeat in Wales early in the season. In short, Cardiff are toast. Anything other than a sound thrashing will represent a triumph for new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer; a win should earn him the freedom of Wales and the manager of the year award.
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Brendan Rodgers believes the Reds' title challenge is still on, but Liverpool are unlikely to make up any ground on their rivals this weekend, so must set their sights on a win over Villa to keep pace with the leading pack. Daniel Sturridge could return to the starting line up alongside goal-machine Luis Suarez and that could spell trouble for Villa, who also showed signs of rediscovering their mojo against Arsenal on Monday night. If Cristian Benteke has rediscovered his goalscoring touch this could be a thriller, but one that Liverpool will expect to win.
West Ham v Newcastle
Not a match that will have a bearing in the race for Europe, but it will be intriguing to see how Andy Carroll fares on his return for the Hammers against the team where he earned his stripes. If West Ham are to avoid the drop Carroll will need to start scoring, and where better to start than against his old employers? Another reason to tune in will be the behaviour of the two managers. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, who was once in charge at Upton Park, is usually worth watching and Big Sam, who is not best loved at the Boleyn Ground, gives as good as he gets. It could be feisty on the touchline.
The weekend's other matches:
Sunderland v Southampton
Crystal Palace v Stoke
Norwich v Hull
West Ham v Newcastle
Swansea v Tottenham
West Brom v Everton